Nearly fifty young children dash in and out of the thatched walls, conjuring up games to which only they seem to understand the rules. The red soil beneath their feet climbs up their calves as the hours pass and the games evolve. Shade and a cool breeze are commodities in this orphanage - which the teenage girls claim for themselves. A flurry of braids and laughter, they sit near the white girl while teaching her how to crochet.
Beads of sweat pool at the base of the white girl’s hairline as she chatters with girls whom are just a few years younger than she. Ashley had been visiting here daily for the two weeks with no plans in particular… only to get to know the children here at the Bishop Judith Craig’s Children Village (BJCCV) in Monrovia, Liberia. They paint toe nails, cut potato greens, plait hair, bake, go on walks, pick flowers, jump rope, the kind of things that girls do. But one of these girls, in particular, absorbs her attention. Rosie’s quiet and serious demeanor pulls Ashley in. The stories that Rosie holds within her eyes are ones of pain and experience. Ones that no one, no young girl, should ever carry.
“Ashley scoured the internet to find a way back to Liberia. Google, Facebook, friends of friends, missionaries, churches, newspapers, magazines, anything that she could get her hands on. And yet all avenues traveled didn’t seem like they were a good fit for a 23 year old with a degree in marketing.”
Ashley encourages Rosie to smile, resisting the heat of the afternoon that pushes itself against their skin. Just like every other day preceding this one, Rosie shyly smiles at the white girl’s pursuit. Her lonely beauty is put on stage for that split second. Almost unable to help herself, Ashley asks Rosie to tell her story. She unleashes dark tales of war and of her parents needlessly dying. She goes on, unconsciously twisting her fingers, to say that she was the only child out of her four siblings that wasn’t taken in by their extended family. Rosie was the middle child that no one wanted.
With this submission, Ashley wipes the trails of tears from her face. She too is a middle child. What barred Rosie’s life from being Ashley’s? A mere stroke of luck? The white girl pushes the bench out from beneath her, unable to control the emotions that refuse to subside, as the realization sets in. These two beautiful girls are connected. Seeking isolation, she quickly makes her way for the lagoon.
Looking out over the water, held in the silence of nature, Ashley knows that she is in over her head. No magic words could be formed by her that might alleviate the heavy burden of life the Rosie bears. Ashley watches the waves clapping the shore as she wonders, ‘How does Rosie’s past reflect on how she relates to others? What does it feel like to know that you were the only child out of all of your siblings that was left in an orphanage? Do these questions haunt her at night?’ With regret she submits to the idea that there is no right way to respond to Rosie and so she makes her way back through the palm trees and tropical brush. She cannot hide forever.
* * *
Throughout the following year Ashley scoured the internet to find a way back to Liberia. Google, Facebook, friends of friends, missionaries, churches, newspapers, magazines, anything that she could get her hands on. And yet all avenues traveled didn’t seem like they were a good fit for a 23 year old with a degree in marketing. But she trudged on, compelled by her deeper understanding of the size of our world and the unmet needs within it. Rosie wasn’t a fly-on-the-eye National Geographic image to Ashley. That gap of space and time that had once allowed her to overlook poverty was now closed. They were humans. Brothers, sisters, cousins, friends. And Rosie isn’t the only one. Rosie is one in a quarter of a million orphans in Liberia (roughly 17% of the children under 14 as estimated by the UN).
While continuing to peruse the internet, Ashley stumbled upon a young man who volunteered at Orphan Relief and Rescue (ORR). From that point forward, everything seemed to line up. Her morals were virtually identical to ORRs. Calls and emails were made. Before Ashley knew it, with expectations soaring, she was on the red soil in Liberia once again - this time as a long term volunteer with ORR as their Relief Program Manager.
As the weeks and months gathered behind her there, Ashley’s ideal about her purpose began to shift. Originally it was based solely on what she could provide but through her experiences; that ideal is becoming more balanced. She has dealt with orphanage directors who are less than honorable. Food goes missing, children go uncared for. But who will pay the cost? Ashley continually treads the fine line between not allowing the children to go without, while simultaneously encouraging the directors to take ownership over their care. There is no one size fits all answer to scenarios such as these.
And yet it is in these gray areas that Ashley finds herself becoming more and more aware of how much that she too has to learn. She is grasping what it means to be content when there are no answers to life’s questions. She still carries those same unanswered questions that she carried to the lagoon so long ago.
* * *
The young white girl sighs to herself and makes her way back towards the orphanage. She wipes her face to be sure all traces of tears are gone just as the building comes into view. Children, a very large group of children, all await Ashley’s return there at the head of the trail. She’s surprised at their attention.
“Auntie Ashley! Are you all right?” They huddle around her, patting her with curiosity.
“Everything’s all right, guys.” Ashley sniffles a bit, “I was just talking with Rosie but she didn’t say anything wrong. It is just so sad to me. Hearing her story makes me feel sad because I’m just like her. But it’s good to talk about your story. It’s good to share… Everything is all right.”
* * *
Since returning to Liberia, Ashley has had many opportunities to go and visit her friends there at the BJCCV. With a day off and some nail polish in hand, Ashley goes to visit Rosie and the girls. Rosie is always the first person to greet her and never fails to walk Ashley to the car when she’s heading for home. Even now, the two girls have a special connection. Nothing needs to be said between them. They can simply sit together while studying or cooking like the old friends that they have become. After all this time, Rosie still continues trying to teach Ashley how to crochet.
To read more about Ashley’s adventures, visit her blog at
To read more about Orphan Relief and Rescue, please visit their website at
Ashley & Rosy
Thank you Ashley, for sharing your Story with us.
Our Stories and pictures are the sole copyright of their Authors and may not be reprinted or used without their permission.
© 2009 by Rachel Musgrove and Story of My Life ®
The girls jumping rope.